To help limit the spread of Coronavirus and to support public health efforts, many family attractions have closed temporarily. In the meantime, we invite our readers to enjoy virtual events highlighted in our Things To Do calendar. When you do go out, follow public health guidelines: wear masks, practice social distancing and wash your hands frequently. To learn why social distancing is important and effective in lessening the spread of COVID-19, hear from Dr. Alexis Elward, Chief Medical Officer at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

Share the Love This Season: 15 St. Louis Gift Drives That Need Your Family's Help

Something happens to our kids the moment the big-box holiday catalogs hit our mailboxes every November.
With Sharpie in hand, normally rational children suddenly go full-on Michael-Jackson-in-a-Vegas-boutique shopping mode, circling everything they want for Christmas without a second thought to price, need or common sense. Air fryer? Check. $600 giant sloth from Kohl’s? Check. The Barbie playset they put in the garage sale last summer? Double-check.
But the truth is, once kids get over that five-minute high, they revert from mini Gordon “Greed is Good” Gekkoes back to the compassionate, caring children we all know and love, ready to embrace the spirit of giving this season. With a variety of nonprofits across the region currently collecting gifts and toys for those they serve, you and your little ones can help make the holidays a bit brighter for our neighbors in need by donating to the following drives:
Angels’ Arms: Angels’ Arms helps provide loving homes for foster children by keeping brothers and sisters together. The organization strives to make birthdays and holidays extra special for its kids and is currently collecting gifts for newborns to young adults. Angels’ Arms needs learning toys, gift cards for all ages and tickets to sporting events as well as financial donations for dance classes, sports team participation fees and other activities. Gifts will be distributed at its annual holiday party in December.
Circle of Concern Food Pantry: This West County food bank provides two opportunities for giving—your family can provide seasonal foods and ingredients to help 500 families prepare a Thanksgiving feast or fill the Christmas wish list of a community member in need. Last year, caring St. Lousians adopted more than 1,600 individuals through the Pantry.
Covenant House Missouri: CHMO offers an escape for young people facing homelessness or human trafficking. Inside its doors, they find a safe place to live, on-site medical services, education and vocational programs, and most important, unconditional love. With their Holiday Gift Bundles program, CHMO and generous donors provide youth ages 16-21 with essential items to meet their daily needs and gifts to open on the big day. You can help by choosing items from their Holiday Gift Idea list, including new clothing and shoes, housewares, gift cards, MP3 players and earbuds, and hygiene items.
Family Forward – With its extensive lineup of programming focused on vulnerable children in St. Louis, Family Forward offers three holiday giving opportunities. Gifts can be donated to its Shop for an Angel project, which allows client-focused staff to shop for children on their caseload, and Shop for a Teen Angel, which helps outfit teens in foster care in the latest fashions. In addition, through Shop for a Children’s Home Angel, your family can provide children with special needs currently living in residential care with clothes, toys and learning tools thoughtfully selected by their therapists to help them communicate, engage and play.
Friends of Kids With Cancer – When a child is undergoing treatment for cancer, their families often go from a two-income household to one or even to no income at all, making filling their children’s Christmas wish lists financially impossible. Friends of Kids With Cancer partners with St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital and Mercy Kids to connect low-income families in need with adopters who provide not only toys and gifts for their kids, but also household items to take one less stress off their shoulders this holiday season.
Habitat for Humanity – For families served by Habitat for Humanity, the support doesn’t stop once the house keys are in their hands. Each holiday season, Habitat hosts the Winter Wonderland Santa Shop when eligible homeowners can shop for gifts for their children and grandchildren, and have them wrapped by volunteers for Christmas morning. They are in need of new toys, coats and hoodies for kids through age 12, and for teens, Bluetooth speakers, earbuds and gift cards for movie theaters, restaurants and big-box stores.
St. Louis Cardinals Holiday Gift Drive: The St. Louis Cardinals 8th Annual Holiday Gift Drive will be held Wednesday, Dec. 4 from 4 to 6 p.m. and provides holiday gifts to area kids in need, including children of military families at Scott Air Force Base. Everyone who drops off gifts will receive hot chocolate and other goodies as a thank you for participating. Organizations that are also involved in the St. Louis Cardinals Gift Drive include The American Red Cross, Fontbonne University, St. Louis Blues, Rawlings Sporting Goods, The Surge, The Cup, Companion Bakery, and KMOV.
Marygrove: You can be a Christmas Champion for a child struggling with the effects of abuse, neglect and other traumatic experiences. This holiday season, Marygrove is collecting gifts for more than 200 kids in its therapeutic residential treatment program. Simply purchase an unwrapped gift from a child’s wish list or make a financial donation to Marygrove—$150 will pay for all the gifts for one child while $2,500 will cover all the presents and holiday party festivities for 15 children in one residential cottage.
Metro East Humane Society: Like their human counterparts, dogs and cats love to receive some special gifts, even if they don’t understand what all the holiday hoopla is about. Your family or workplace can set up a Giving Tree to collect items for those pets waiting for their forever homes this season. MEHS currently needs heavy-duty chew toys, treats, cat beds, and fleece blankets as well as housekeeping items like cleaning supplies, trash bags and paper towels.
Midtown Community Services: For St. Louis residents facing overwhelming poverty, this community center in The Grove neighborhood has been a beacon of hope for almost 40 years. Midtown offers free programming for every member of the family, including infants in its Family PRIDE healthy baby program and older kids and teens in its afterschool and summer camp programs. Midtown is looking for donors who are willing to adopt an entire family, a senior citizen or a Teen Club member for the holidays. Just register online, and you’ll receive a personal wish list from a local St. Louis resident.
Mission St. Louis: Over the past 11 years, generous donors have stocked Mission St. Louis’ Affordable Christmas store with toys, gifts and clothes, helping more than 10,000 local kids in need have a happier holiday. The nonprofit, which strives to break the cycle of poverty in St. Louis, is currently accepting unwrapped toys through its Amazon, Target and Walmart wish lists—with a special need for children age 12 and older. On December 14, parents will shop the store to select gifts they can wrap up and put under the tree for their children this Christmas. To run the event, Mission St. Louis will need between 150-200 volunteers to assist with sorting and stocking, gift wrapping, translating, and personal shopping.
Mission St. Louis
Lydia’s House: Lydia’s House provides a safe haven for women and children escaping domestic violence where they can find transitional housing, support groups and personal advocates. Through their 2019 Holiday Project, Lydia’s House will provide 50 families with gift and meal baskets. You can register with the nonprofit to receive a wish list from a woman or family, or sign up to purchase baking items, nonperishable food items and grocery store gift cards for a holiday meal.
St. Louis Crisis Nursery: Because of homelessness, domestic violence or a family illness, St. Louis Crisis Nursery is home to many kids during the holiday season. Your family make the season a little bit brighter for them by helping the nonprofit fill Holiday Wish Bags which will be distributed to children staying at its nurseries, kids living in shelters around St. Louis, and those whose families face an unexpected crisis in December. Simply choose three toys from the suggested wish list and add a variety of stocking stuffers to the mix.
Stray Rescue – You can adopt a shelter pet this season through Stray Rescue’s Secret Santa for Strays program and fill their holiday wish list! In addition to collecting items like no-slip collars, crates, Kong toys, and Nylabones, you can purchase a gift package through the Stray Rescue website. For instance, the $25 “Cuddle Bundle” gives a puppy a stuffed toy, warm bed and soft blanket while the $75 “A Day at the Spa” package provides a recently rescued dog with a nail trim, shampoo and grooming.
Sweet Celebrations – Throughout the year, Sweet Celebrations hosts free personalized birthday parties, complete with cake, decorations and gifts, for children facing homelessness. During the holiday season, the nonprofit continues to celebrate these special kids through their Christmas gift drive. Wish lists will be up on the website soon, but you can check out their Amazon Wish List now to get an early start on shopping. You can also volunteer to host a toy drive, wrap gifts or make stocking stuffers at Sweet Celebrations’ Santa Workshops.
Photos courtesy of the St. Louis Cardinals, Mission St. Louis.
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Metro East mom Nicole Plegge is the lifestyle and pop culture blogger for STL Parent. Besides working as a freelance writer & public relations specialist, and raising two daughters and a husband, Nicole's greatest achievements are finding her misplaced car keys each day and managing to leave the house in a stain-free shirt. Her biggest regret is never being accepted to the Eastland School for Girls. Follow Nicole on Twitter @STLWriterinIL 

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